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Illinois unemployment holds at 9.5 percent

CHAMPAIGN – Unemployment leveled off in Illinois in March at 9.5 percent, the Department of Employment Security said Thursday, leaving the state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and 629,000 people looking for work.

Job losses were widespread across a range of different types of employers, and indicated that two previous months of increases weren’t a fluke, one economist said.

The state unemployment rate remains well above the 7.6 percent national rate, which dropped last month. And, while March rates for all 50 states were not yet available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 9.5 percent jobless rate for February meant Illinois had higher unemployment than all but three other U.S. states.

Jay Rowell, the director of the Department of Employment Security, said the state has still shown job growth this year, pointing to the average of gain of 1,100 jobs each month this year.

“Economic uncertainty nationally and abroad dampened our country’s job growth. When that happens, Illinois’ share tends to be a negative number,” department director Jay Rowell said in a printed news release. “Monthly snapshots capture a moment in time. When those moments are evaluated together, we see progress away from a global recession and through a stubborn economic growth cycle marked by volatile swings in monthly data here and across our country.”

But the state lost a net 17,800 jobs in March, and the losses were widespread, occurring at a range of different types of employers.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 9,000 jobs, professional and business services firms shed 5,800 jobs, leisure and hospitality businesses cut a net 4,900 jobs, and positions at construction companies were down 1,300 for the month.

The bright spot was educational and health services firms, which added a net 2,900 jobs.

University of Illinois economist Fred Giertz said the report was disappointing.

“Not just because it’s high, but the hope was that last month was kind of an anomaly,” he said. “It’s stayed there for two months in a row. We’re kind of losing our connection with the national economy.”

Local-level unemployment figures for March won’t be available until later this month, but so far this year unemployment has remained stubbornly high in some downstate and rural areas.

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